Defending two-time Asian champions Japan pulled off a remarkable comeback from two sets down to beat Poland in epic tie-breaker and advance to 7-2 at the 2021 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy on Tuesday.

Despite playing without their key player Malwina Smarzek, Poland got off to a brilliant start to net the hard-fought first set 25-22 and maintained their dominant form to take the second set with the similar margin 25-22 for a 2-0 lead.

Japan put up their aggressive fight with exceptional combination plays in the following sets, combining their powerful attacks from Sarina Koga, Ai Kurogo and Mayu Ishikawa with Kurogo’s well-placed serves to win the third and fourth sets 25-22, 25-23.

The deciding set was more thrilling as both sides poured everything to win the set and match, but the determined Japanese played more confidently and consistently to win the hotly-contested set 16-14 and match.

Sarina Koga chipped in with 26 points for Japan, while Ai Kurogo and Mayu Ishikawa kept good company to add 21 points apiece. Magdalena Stysiak scored massive 35 points on Poland’s losing efforts.

Poland’s Julia Nowicka said at the virtual mixed zone: “I think we should have won this match. We had a great chance to win, but we weren’t disciplined enough – in block and defence. And the Japanese team is a great technical team, so we had really big problems with their spikes, especially from the left side and they could do anything with the ball and we couldn’t find a way to stop them. We also weren’t disciplined enough to follow our tactics.”

Sarina Koga of Japan said: “Actually we are really happy to win this game and we enjoyed playing these five sets. The decisive factor was that we played as a team, not as individual players, we were a unity. We were losing points, because of their strong attacks, therefore we talked with the entire team that we have to improve our block, to fix our defence.”

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